China appears to be pursuing a policy of “squeeze and relax” in its dispute with India in the Himalayas along one of the world’s longest land borders, an Australian-based global security expert says.
China appears to be pursuing a policy of "squeeze and relax" in its dispute with India in the Himalayas along one of the world's longest land borders, an Australian-based global security expert says.
The two Asian powers are accusing the other of overstepping the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that separates the two.
The territory has long been disputed, erupting into numerous minor conflicts and diplomatic spats since a bloody war between the countries in 1962.
On June 15, at least 20 Indian soldiers were reported dead in clashes along the frontier.
"Unlike India's border with Pakistan, It's not very well defined. So occasional clashes can easily occur, for instance when a soldier wanders too far and sets up camp on the other side," Clive Williams, of the Australian National University in Canberra, told Nine.com.au.
China says it is taking measures with India to reduce tensions in the area following a recent flareup that prompted rock-throwing and fistfights.
Thousands of soldiers from the two countries have been facing off just a few hundred metres from each other for a month in the Indian-controlled Ladakh region.
And Chinese broadcasters have aired footage of People's Liberation Army (PLA) exercises in the region - complete with planes and trucks full of troops.
Mr Williams says Beijing has probably calculated it is now the time to cool the situation.
"It may be a case of the 'squeeze and relax' policy from China when they push things a bit and then back off."
But he also says local factors play as big a part as policy makers in Beijing or New Delhi.
"You may have a local army commander who is a bit more aggressive than others. And then it is easier for tensions to rise."
But Mr Williams says both sides do not want the Himalayas situation to escalate.
"India is far more interested in keeping hold of the Kashmir and securing its border with Pakistan."
Here is a look at the key factors behind the long-running diplomatic dispute.
Both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have built public support in large part on nationalism and a promise of future greatness.
This often translates into jingoism and aggressive rhetoric, particularly when playing to a domestic audience.
Such an approach was evidenced in Chinese coverage of the People's Liberation Army exercises in the Himalayas. Equally, despite Delhi's announcement on Saturday of easing tensions, leading Indian government figures struck an aggressive tone this week.
Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah told a rally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that "any intrusion into the the borders of India will be punished".
"Some used to say that US and Israel were the only countries which were willing and capable of avenging every drop of the blood of their soldiers," Mr Shah said.
"(Modi) has added India to that list.''
War and peace between Asian giants
The sides established diplomatic relations in 1950, but a 1962 border war between them set back ties for decades.
In all, China claims some 90,000 square kilometres of territory in India's northeast, including the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh with its traditionally Buddhist population.
India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometres of its territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the western Himalayas, including part of the Ladakh region.
Relations are also strained by India's hosting of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled his homeland in 1959 during an aborted uprising against Chinese rule.
The Dalai Lama established a self-declared government-in-exile in the northern Indian town of Dharmsala, where thousands of Tibetans have settled.
In 1993, the two countries signed an agreement on the "Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility" along what is known as the Line of Actual Control along their border.
But they are nowhere near to settling their dispute despite more than 20 rounds of talks along with multiple meetings between Mr Modi and Mr Xi.
Beijing's support for Pakistan on the issue of the disputed territory of Kashmir is also a major cause of concern for India. China has built a road through Pakistani-controlled Kashmir and is blocking India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group by insisting on Pakistan's simultaneous entry.
India's refusal to participate in Mr Xi's signature foreign policy initiative, the multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, hasn't gone down well with China, while Beijing has paid only lip service to New Delhi's aspirations to join the UN Security Council as a permanent member.
Dispute turns deadly
At least 20 Indian soldiers have died after a "violent face-off" with Chinese troops along the countries' de facto border in the Himalayas on June 15, the Indian army has said.
The incident occurred during a "deescalation process" underway in the Galwan Valley in the disputed Aksai Chin-Ladakh area.
The Indian army said the troops "were critically injured in the line of duty at the standoff location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain have succumbed to their injuries."
The deaths are the first military casualties along the two countries' disputed border for more than 40 years.
Economic rivalry and trade
Despite the sporadic border clashes, economic ties between the two have expanded in the past decade, with China exercising a large trade surplus.
More than 100 Chinese companies, many of them state-owned, have established offices or operations in India, according to India's External Affairs Ministry. Chinese firms including Xiaomi, Huawei, Vivo and Oppo occupy nearly 60 per cent of India's mobile phone market, while India's major exports to China lean toward cotton, copper and gemstones.
Trade volume rose to more than US$95 billion (A$140 billion) in 2018, and passed US$53 billion in the first half of 2019, with almost US$43 billion of that being Chinese exports to India. The imbalance has contributed to a push by India to capitalise on China's rising costs and deteriorating ties with the United States and European nations to become a replacement home for large multinational.
- With AP, CNN
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/china-india-himalayas-border-dispute-what-is-behind-it/8c448ca7-5aba-4bfa-8ba1-d24e6c2db369